Juan Muñoz First Banister 1987

Juan Muñoz
First Banister
Private collection © The estate of Juan Muñoz

Muñoz made several banister sculptures, each representing a handrail, with its own distinctive twist or elaboration. The presence of the human figure is strongly implied: the banister is something for the hand to grip, a means of safety and guidance while negotiating a tricky staircase or passageway. But it was precisely this feeling of reassurance that Muñoz wanted to undermine. First Banister 1987 includes an open switchblade, hidden from view and waiting to slice the hand of anyone who holds the rail for support.

By the time Muñoz made Dwarf with Three Columns 1988, the human figure had become a literal presence in his work. But the artist wanted to keep a physical and emotional distance between the viewer and the figure. The dwarf retains a sense of what Muñoz called ‘otherness’. The twisting columns emphasise the dwarf’s diminutive stature while at the same time, perhaps, denoting his body as yet another architectural element, a fourth column.